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Greater Bladderwort

Utricularia vulgaris

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Lentibulariaceae (Bladderwort)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Bogs, ditches, ponds, water.

Yellow, 2 petals
Rich yellow flowers, similar to those of Snapdragon. The lower lip of the flower is curved upwards and contains some red venation. The sepals are small, green and egg-shaped. Flower stalks are short and green. The most common of Britain's Bladderworts. Pollinated by bees.
A very small, round capsule. Very rarely seen.
A perennial, aquatic and carnivorous species of flower. The thread-like leaves are alternate along the stems. They zigzag between branches. Reddish-green bladder-like organs (up to 5mm wide) are present along the stems. These are used to trap insects on which the plant feeds. The evergreen underwater stems are also reddish-green.
Other Names:
Common Bladderwort.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Utricularia vulgaris, also known as common bladderwort or great bladderwort, is a small, carnivorous aquatic plant that is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a member of the Lentibulariaceae family and is known for its small, bladder-like structures that are used to trap and digest small aquatic animals, such as water fleas and protozoa. The plant has thin, delicate stems and small, yellow or purple flowers that are borne on long stalks above the water surface. It is a popular plant for aquaria and is often used in naturalized ponds or water gardens. U. vulgaris is a fast-growing plant that is easy to care for and is tolerant of a wide range of water conditions. It prefers full sun and can tolerate a wide range of pH levels. It is important to note that U. vulgaris is a protected species in some areas and may not be collected or removed from the wild without permission.


Greater Bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris) is a carnivorous plant species that belongs to the family Lentibulariaceae. Native to Europe, Asia, and North America, it is known for its unusual method of capturing its prey – small aquatic insects and other tiny organisms.

The plant has small, bladder-like structures (hence its name) that are filled with water and are equipped with tiny hairs that trigger when small prey comes into contact with them. This triggers the opening of the bladder, creating a vacuum that sucks in the prey and digests it with digestive enzymes.

Greater Bladderwort is an aquatic or semi-aquatic plant that grows in still or slow-moving water bodies such as ponds, ditches, and bogs. It has green leaves that float on the surface of the water and long, delicate stems that reach towards the bottom of the water body. The plant flowers from June to September, producing yellow or yellow-orange flowers that bloom above the water surface.

One of the unique characteristics of Greater Bladderwort is that it does not have any roots. Instead, it obtains its nutrients from the prey it captures, which provides it with all the nutrients it needs to grow and reproduce. This adaptation makes it well-suited to its habitat, where it can grow in nutrient-poor waters and compete with other aquatic plants.

Greater Bladderwort is considered a pest in some parts of the world, especially in rice paddies, where it can quickly spread and reduce the yield of crops. However, it also has a place in the world of horticulture and botany, where it is grown as an ornamental plant for its unusual growth habit and interesting flowers.

Greater Bladderwort is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of water conditions. It can grow in water with a pH range from 5.5 to 8.5 and can tolerate temperatures from -10°C to 35°C. This makes it a versatile plant that can be grown in many different parts of the world.

The plant reproduces through the production of seeds and the fragmentation of its stems. This allows it to quickly colonize new areas, especially in water bodies with low competition.

Greater Bladderwort is not only a fascinating plant to observe but also plays an important role in its ecosystem. As a carnivorous plant, it helps to control the populations of small aquatic insects and other organisms, which can have a positive effect on the overall health of the water body.

In addition to its ornamental value, Greater Bladderwort has a long history of use in traditional medicine. In some cultures, it was used to treat a range of ailments, including bladder problems, skin conditions, and respiratory issues. However, it is important to note that the plant can also be toxic if consumed in large quantities.

In recent years, Greater Bladderwort has also been the subject of scientific study due to its unusual method of capturing prey. Scientists are interested in understanding how the plant's bladders work and how it has evolved to become a carnivorous plant.

Studies have shown that Greater Bladderwort is capable of capturing prey at incredibly fast speeds, with the bladders opening and closing in just a few milliseconds. This speed is crucial for the plant's survival, as it needs to quickly capture its prey before it escapes.

Research on Greater Bladderwort has also shed light on the evolution of carnivorous plants. Scientists believe that this type of adaptation has evolved in order to compensate for nutrient-poor environments, such as bogs and ponds. By capturing and digesting small insects and other organisms, carnivorous plants are able to obtain the nutrients they need to grow and survive.

In recent years, conservation efforts have been launched to protect Greater Bladderwort and other carnivorous plant species. These efforts are necessary because many of these plants are under threat from habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change. By conserving these plants, we can help to ensure their survival for future generations to enjoy and study.

In conclusion, Greater Bladderwort is not only a fascinating plant to observe but also a valuable subject of scientific study. By learning more about this plant, we can gain a better understanding of the evolution of carnivorous plants and the role they play in their ecosystems. Additionally, conservation efforts can help to ensure that this unique and important plant species is protected for future generations to enjoy.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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